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How did Red Ribbon Week start?

Published October 27. 2010 05:00PM

Schools around the country are celebrating Red Ribbon Week, one of the oldest and largest drug prevention programs in the nation. But how did this program begin?

The following is a brief history on how Red Ribbon Week began.

Red Ribbon Week began as a way to commemorate the sacrifice Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena made 25 years ago.

According to, Camarena worked his way through college, the military and joined the police force. He later joined the U.S. DEA in the hopes of making a difference in the world by stopping illegal drugs from entering the United States.

His assignment was to work undercover in Mexico, investigating a drug cartel that was believed to include the Mexican army, police, and government officials.

On Feb. 7, 1985, Camarena, who was 37, went to meet his wife for lunch, but he never made it. As he left the office, five men shoved him into a car. He was then tortured and killed.

Following Camarena's death, congressman Duncan Hunter and Henry Lozano started "Camarena Clubs" in Camarena's hometown of Imperial Valley, Calif. The purpose of the club was to educate the public about drugs and urge them to live drug-free lives on behalf of Camarena's sacrifice.

This club wore red ribbons in honor of the fallen hero, a symbol that is still worn today.

Red Ribbon Week then grew out of this club's efforts and became a nationally recognized week for education against drugs.

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